Charged with a felony what do I do now?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been charged with felony burglary. I am wondering what the next steps are for me. Do I have to hire a criminal defense lawyer? What if I decide to plead guilty? Do I still need a lawyer?” 

What do I need to know about felonies?

In most states, penalties and fines for felonies vary by state and by the felony categorization. For example, some states use the term “class” to designate the severity of the felony. Other states combine classes with levels. For example, Class A, Level 1 felonies would be considered the most serious crimes.

If you are convicted of a felony the amount of time you would spend in prison and the fines you would be required to pay would be outlined under your state’s statute for that offense.  For example, some states may require defendants convicted of a Class A felony to pay a maximum of $40,000 and serve up to 20 years in prison.

Without getting bogged down in the details, however, the most important thing to understand if you have been convicted of a felony is that this is a serious charge. While you may be tempted to simply plead guilty and wait for sentencing, there are several other steps you should take first.

Steps after a felony conviction: 

  1. Contact a criminal defense lawyer and do not make any statements to the police.

It seems like common sense. You have been arrested and you have the right to remain silent. Unfortunately, many criminal defendants just cannot help volunteering information and answering questions. Even the best intentioned defendants, however, often end up saying things which are incriminating.

Criminal laws and statutes are very complicated. There’s a reason that attorneys spend years studying the law and additional time practicing it. You would never consider operating on yourself. Why would you attempt to defend yourself without professional legal help?

  1. Review the laws of your state and understand the penalties you could face. 

If you have hired a criminal defense lawyer, they can answer your questions and explain what fines and penalties you might face if convicted.

In addition to fines and penalties, however, there are also long-term ramifications of a felony conviction. For example, you may be barred from owning a firearm, voting in elections, serving in the military, obtaining certain types of jobs, or getting certain types of professional licenses.

  1. Avoid commenting about your case to friends, family or on social media.

Do not make any comments to your family or friends about your case. Remember, unlike your conversations held with your attorney, friends and family members (exceptions may exist in some states for your spouse) can be deposed and may be required to provide testimony to the court about conversations and statements you have made to them.

More importantly, do not post anything or comment on any type of social media about the criminal charges or anything related to the crime. Information which is posted online can be subpoenaed and used against you at trial.

  1. Tell your attorney information about the case, make detailed notes, and provide a list of witnesses.

You did not mention whether or not you were guilty or innocent, but regardless, it’s important that you provide detailed, accurate and honest information to your attorney. Your attorney will also need information about anyone who may have witnesses the crime or who were with you at the time the crime allegedly occurred. 

Bottom Line:

Given the information you have provided, it is a good idea to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer before you make any deals with the prosecution or decide to plead guilty.

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